FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
MARTIN, NO. 15421 HONORABLE KEITH R. J. COMEAUX, DISTRICT
K. Breaud Timothy W. Basden Breaud & Meyers COUNSEL FOR
OTHER APPELLANT: Kathryn H. Theriot
Philip Breaux, Jr. Breaux & Hornstein, LLC COUNSEL FOR
OTHER APPELLEE: Lynn Jordan
Porteus R. Burke Joseph Burke Burke & Cestia COUNSEL FOR
OTHER APPELLEE: Pat Theriot Trust
L. Durand In Proper Person COUNSEL FOR OTHER APPELLANT: Allan
L. Guidry, Jr. Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR OTHER APPELLANT:
Allan Durand, Executor
N. Mallery Jacob C. Credeur Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak
& Stewart, P.C. COUNSEL FOR OTHER APPELLANT: State Farm
Mutual Auto Ins. Co.
composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and John E.
appeals arise from a dispute over the correct recipient of a
decedent's initial termination and extended termination
payments from his employment as an insurance agent. The trial
court found that the corporate agent was the correct
recipient of the initial termination payments while no party
had shown it was eligible for the extended termination
payments. The executor of the estate, the insurance agency,
and the decedent's wife have all appealed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Theriot (the decedent) worked as an insurance agent for State
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) since
1981. In 1994, the decedent formed a corporation named Pat
Theriot Insurance Agency, Inc. (the corporation). The
decedent was the sole shareholder and served as President
while the corporation was referred to as the agent of State
Farm. The 1994 Agreement provided for sixty monthly
termination payments to start when it was terminated. These
are known as the initial termination payments. Extended
termination payments would begin on the 61st month after
termination of the 1994 Agreement and would continue until
the month of the decedent's death. A joint and survivor
option could replace the applicable terms for entitlement to
these extended termination payments by amendment prior to the
decedent had been married three times prior to meeting his
wife at the time of his death, Kathryn Hempel Theriot (Ms.
Theriot). The decedent had several children from his previous
marriages, all of whom are adults at the time of these suits.
The decedent and Ms. Theriot were married on October 10,
2012. In the summer of 2013, the decedent's failing
health was evident, and he was given three months to live.
The decedent passed away on September 6, 2013.
to his death, the decedent met with his attorney, Allan
Durand, whom he named as executor of his estate (the
Executor). The decedent named Mr. Durand the Executor in his
last will and testament. The decedent revised his previously
prepared testament to include provisions for Ms. Theriot.
decedent's Last Will and Testament and codicil that were
executed on August 2, 2013, and September 3, 2013,
respectively, the following provision at the heart of this
dispute states, "3.2(B) Any termination payment due to
me or my estate from State Farm shall go to my wife,
Kathy." The residuary estate, except for a bequest to
the decedent's sister not relevant to these proceedings,
was to be left in trust for the decedent's children. This
trust was also made the beneficiary of the decedent's
life insurance proceeds.
decedent also contacted State Farm to sign additional
paperwork in order for both the initial and extended
termination payments would go to Ms. Theriot. Jarrod Landry,
a representative of State Farm's from the Dallas regional
office, brought documents for the decedent to sign to ensure
Ms. Theriot would receive the termination payments.
decedent signed all of the documents provided to him during
this meeting on August 28 (the August 28th Documents). The
decedent entered into the early notification program, under
which a State Farm Agent may give advance notice of
retirement and be immediately eligible to assign the
termination payments. These documents provided that the
decedent would retire no later than August 31, 2014,
qualified the decedent for the extended termination payments,
qualified the decedent to receive a reduced extended
termination payment for the rest of his life in exchange for
the reduced extended termination payments to continue for the
rest of Ms. Theriot's life, and assigned all of the
corporation's rights to the extended termination payments
to the decedent. State Farm asked the decedent to delay his
retirement date. The decedent passed away the following week
on September 6, 2013.
November 22, 2013, the executor filed a petition for partial
possession and/or interim allowance seeking to recognize Ms.
Theriot as the recipient of the termination payments. The
trust responded that, as residual legatee and owner of the
corporation, it was entitled to the termination payments
because they were owed to the corporation.
learning there was a dispute between Ms. Theriot and the
trust, State Farm filed a concursus petition as an
intervenor. The executor had previously filed a separate
petition against State Farm. The trust and Ms. Theriot both
answered the concursus asserting claims to the initial
termination payments. Ms. Theriot additionally filed a
petition for intervention into the succession proceeding
seeking to be recognized as the proper recipient of the
termination payments. State Farm's concursus petition was
eventually denied and dismissed after a trial was held
determining the proper party to receive the termination
executor filed a petition for reformation of contracts
seeking to reform the August 28th documents to reflect the
joint intent of the parties and also praying for relief on
the alternative ground that the decedent relied on Jarrod
Landry's assurance to the decedent that the August 28th
documents would successfully transfer the termination
payments to Ms. Theriot. A supplemental and amended petition
for reformation of contracts was subsequently filed.
trust filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to be
declared the owner of the termination payments. This motion
was opposed by Ms. Theriot and the executor. The trial court
denied this motion.
Theriot filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to have
the trial court find that she was entitled to the termination
payments. Her motion was denied as well.
to trial, the trust filed a motion in limine to exclude all
parol evidence from trial, which was opposed by Ms. Theriot
and the executor. The motion in limine was granted, and the
trial court ordered the exclusion of all evidence concerning
the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the
decedent's last will and testament and the execution of
the August 28th documents. A motion for reconsideration was
also filed and denied.
case went to trial. On May 5, 2015, the trial court dismissed
the executor's petition for reformation, denied relief
for detrimental reliance, ruled that under the decedent's
will, the initial termination payments should go to the trust
via its ownership of the corporation. Further, the trial
court ruled that the extended termination payments were not
owed to anyone because the extended termination payments were
not owed to the decedent at the time of his death and were
not payable under the August 28th documents since the
decedent passed away before the retirement date specified in
the early notification program enrollment document.
executor filed a timely motion for new trial which was
denied. The trial court signed an order granting State
Farm's suspensive appeal. The trial court then signed an
order granting the executor's devolutive appeal. Ms.
Theriot was also granted a devolutive appeal by the trial
the trial court signed an order granting State Farm's
devolutive appeal of the separate judgment denying and
dismissing its petition-in-intervention for concursus.
Thereafter, the trial court signed an order consolidating the
appeals filed by the executor, Ms. Theriot, and both appeals
filed by State Farm. This court then issued an order stating
that the trial court erred in consolidating appeals and
ordered separate appeals. Those separate appeals were then
consolidated by this court.
THERIOT'S ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR:
1. The trial court erred as a matter of law in refusing to
consider "all competent evidence" in the
interpretation of the Last Will and Testament of Pat Theriot.
2. The trial court erred as a matter of law in its refusal to
admit parol evidence, or any evidence at all, on the Petition
to Reform Contracts.
3. The trial court erred as a matter of law in its ruling
that the State Farm initial termination payments were payable
to the Pat Theriot Trust under the language of the Last Will
and Testament of Pat Theriot.
4. The trial court erred as a matter of law in its ruling
that State Farm had no obligation to pay extended termination
payments to Kathy Theriot, as Pat Theriot's surviving
spouse and designated beneficiary.
5. If the State Farm contract documents signed on August 28,
2013 were insufficient to assign all termination payments to
Kathy Theriot, the trial court erred in failing to reform the
contract documents to accomplish the stated intent of the
parties at the time the documents were executed.
6. The trial court erred in failing to place Kathy Theriot in
possession of both Pat Theriot's initial and extended
termination benefits from State Farm.
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR:
1. The District Court was in error in failing to follow the
clear language of Pat's will by ruling that Pat
Theriot's bequest that "any termination payment
due to me or my estate from State Farm shall go to my wife,
Kathy" had no effect whatsoever.
2. The District Court was in error in ruling that it was
Pat's intent that the termination payments were to be
inherited by the Trust, and not by Pat's wife, Kathy.
3. The District Court was in error in refusing to admit parol
evidence offered by the Executor on the issue of Pat's
intent in using the phrase ". . .due to me, or my
estate. . .", after having admitted parol evidence
offered by other parties as to Pat's intent.
4. If the District Court was not in error in failing
to give any effect to Pat's bequest of the Termination
Payments to his wife, then the District Court was in error in
refusing to treat the Will as an "assignment."
5. The District Court was in error in ruling that the
"August 28 documents" did not result in the
assignment of the Extended Termination Payments to Kathy, and
in not interpreting the documents in the method most
favorable to the non-drafter.
6. The District Court was in error in not reforming the
August 28 contracts to reflect the intent of the parties,
i.e., to assign both the Initial Termination
Payments and the Extended Termination Payments to
7. The District Court was in error in failing to allow parol
evidence in support of the Petition to Reform the Contracts,
and in failing to reform the contracts to reflect the intent
of the parties.
8. The District Court was in error in refusing to allow parol
evidence in support of the claim of detrimental reliance, and
in denying the claim of detrimental reliance by Pat upon the
representations of State Farm.
9. The District Court was in error in ruling that the
Termination Payments should not go to Kathy, for the reason
that Pat relied to his detriment on the representations of
10. The District Court was in error in failing to admit the
parol evidence that State farm accepted Pat's will as a
valid transfer of ...